The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 24, 2013

Ex-PTO officers in court on embezzlement charges

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — Two women accused of stealing more than $35,000 from the Hermitage Parent-Teacher Organization turned themselves in at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Hermitage police station.

Kelly Vocaire, 41, of 158 N. Buhl Farm Drive, and Gina M. Grata, 45, or 293 Butterfly Lane, both Hermitage, were taken before District Judge Ronald Antos, Farrell, for arraignment.

Both are charged with theft and conspiracy to commit theft.

Grata, former executive PTO president, is accused of stealing $10,181 from the organization and Vocaire, former PTO treasurer, is accused of stealing $25,299. The money was taken between May 2012 and March, police said.

Grata told police May 1 that she asked Vocaire if she could borrow $1,500 from the organization to cover a personal bill and received a check. Grata told police she tried to pay back the loan but Vocaire wouldn’t allow it because an unexplained deposit in the group’s accounts would raise suspicion, according to court papers.

Grata later requested and got more checks to “pay bills and other stuff,” police said. She admitted taking $7,000 to $8,000 from the PTO, police said.

The theft was discovered after other PTO officers sought financial records from Vocaire and were refused. They obtained monthly statements and canceled checks from the PTO’s bank that indicated checks written to Vocaire and Grata but couldn’t find invoices to match, police said.

Police said 68 checks made payable to Vocaire and 13 to Grata.

Vocaire declined to be interviewed by police, they said.

Grata’s mother, Ann Marie Morocco, said her daughter has been with the PTO for 13 years. “She has put her whole heart and soul into the school,” Morocco said.

Tina Liguori, a friend of Grata’s, was in court with Morocco for the arraignment.

“She has spent her time and money out of her own pocket numerous times and never complained about it,” Liguori said of Grata’s commitment to the PTO.

“Everybody makes mistakes,” Morocco said.

Morocco and Liguori said they’re supporting Grata 100 percent through the court proceedings and said there are many people and teachers from Hermitage schools who would do the same.

Grata, represented by Randall Hetrick, and Vocaire, represented by Ronald D. Amrhein waived the reading of charges and were read their rights.

Each was released after posting $10,000 bond. Antos set their preliminary hearings for 9 a.m. June 6.